Do I Have A Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim is a unique kind of personal injury lawsuit made when someone is killed due to another party’s negligence (or sometimes intentional) act.
Wrongful death claims allow the estate of the deceased person to file a lawsuit against the party who is legally liable for the death. The suit is usually filed by a representative of the estate, on behalf of surviving family members and other affected parties.
In the Michael Jackson wrongful death case, the jury found the promoter not liable after a trial that lasted more than five months and made public many facts about Jackson. “I cried because, for once, the world was allowed to hear some of the facts at they pertain to this matter — a lot of facts that have been suppressed, much of which I was denied and my attorneys could not present during my criminal trial,” Dr. Conrad Murray said on the NBC Today show after he was convicted in Michael Jackson’s death.
Understanding the Concept of Wrongful Death
The concept of wrongful death refers to a legal term used when someone is held liable for another person’s death due to negligence or intentional harm. Understanding the concept of wrongful death is crucial to ascertain the grounds on which a wrongful death claim can be lodged.
A wrongful death lawsuit can be filed by the decedent’s immediate family members, such as a spouse, children, or parents, in the aftermath of the decedent’s death. The wrongful death claim is made against a party or parties who are believed to be responsible for the death due to their negligent or intentional acts.
This legal provision offers a way for the family members to seek justice and compensation for their loss. In order to file a wrongful death claim, it must be proven that the defendant’s actions directly resulted in the decedent’s death. This could include actions that are either negligent, such as reckless driving or failure to maintain safe conditions, or intentional, such as assault or other forms of violence.
The legal procedures involved in a wrongful death lawsuit can be complex and time-consuming. Thus, it is recommended to seek the guidance of a competent legal professional who has experience in handling such cases. This would ensure that the claim is properly filed, and the chances of a successful lawsuit are maximized.
Legal Grounds for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
One must understand that there are specific legal grounds that must be present in order to successfully file a wrongful death claim. These grounds are typically based on the principles of negligence, breach of duty, causation, and damages. It is essential to consult with a personal injury lawyer who specializes in wrongful death claims to ensure you have a strong case.
A personal injury lawyer can help determine if the death was caused as a result of someone else’s negligence or misconduct. If the party responsible owed a duty of care to the deceased, and their actions or inactions caused the death, you might have legal grounds to file a wrongful death lawsuit.
Moreover, the causation aspect must be established, meaning it must be proven that the defendant’s actions directly led to the death. Lastly, it must be shown that the death has caused measurable damages such as loss of income, funeral expenses, or pain and suffering.
Here is a table summarizing these legal grounds:
|Negligence||The death was caused by the defendant’s careless actions.|
|Breach of Duty||The defendant had a duty to the deceased and failed to fulfill it.|
|Causation||The defendant’s actions directly led to the death.|
|Damages||The death has caused measurable financial losses.|
Understanding these grounds and filing a state wrongful death case can be a complex legal issue. Therefore, it is recommended to consult with an experienced attorney who knows the statute and can guide you through the process.
Determining the Timeline for Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
In addition to establishing legal grounds for a wrongful death claim, it is crucial to consider the timeline for filing, as each state has its own statute of limitations. Determining the timeline is an important aspect when considering when one can file a wrongful death claim. This timeline is dictated by the state and is known as the statute of limitations. It is the period within which the wrongful death lawsuit can be filed.
The statute of limitations varies greatly from state to state. Some states may allow as much as two years from the date of the deceased’s death for loved ones to file a wrongful death claim, whereas others may only provide a year. In some cases, the clock on the statute of limitations may not start ticking until the discovery of the death. Therefore, it is essential to consult with an experienced attorney familiar with the state laws to ensure that you are within the bounds of the stipulated timeline.
Filing a wrongful death claim past the statute of limitations can result in the case being dismissed, regardless of its merits. The court strictly observes these limitations to ensure fair proceedings. The law assumes that a person with a legitimate wrongful death claim will pursue it with reasonable diligence within the prescribed time frame.
When Can I File A Wrongful Death Claim?
A wrongful death claim can be made when a victim who would otherwise have a personal injury claim is killed as a result of either negligence or an intentional harmful act on the part of someone else. This can occur in a variety of situations, including but not limited to:
When a victim is intentionally killed. For example, OJ Simpson was sued for wrongful death for the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman. The case was based on an intentional act.
When a victim dies as a result of medical malpractice. If a doctor failed to diagnose a condition, or if the doctor was careless in the level of care provided, and death resulted, then a wrongful death action can be brought against the doctor.
Car accident fatalities involving negligence. If a victim dies as a result of car accident injuries, a wrongful death claim may be brought.
These are just a few examples of personal injury cases that can turn into wrongful death claims. A wrongful death suit claim come from almost any personal injury situation, although notably exceptions exist for workplace injuries that result in death, which are handled mostly through the worker’s compensation system.
What Do I Have To Prove In A Wrongful Death Lawsuit?
Before you can successfully pursue a wrongful death lawsuit, it is crucial to understand what elements you must prove in court. Essentially, to succeed in a wrongful death claim, you must demonstrate four key elements: duty of care, breach of duty, causation, and damages.
The first element, duty of care, involves proving that the defendant owed a legal duty to the deceased. For instance, a driver has a duty to obey traffic laws and drive safely to protect others on the road.
The second element, breach of duty, requires showing that the defendant failed to fulfill their duty. If a driver was intoxicated, speeding, or otherwise acting negligently, they have breached their duty.
The third element, causation, is arguably the most complex. Here, you must demonstrate that the defendant’s breach of duty directly caused the death of your loved one. This often requires intricate legal arguments and expert testimony to establish a clear link between the breach and the resulting death.
Finally, the fourth element is damages. You must be able to prove that the death resulted in measurable damages. This can include medical expenses, funeral costs, loss of income, pain and suffering, and more. It’s essential to have detailed records to substantiate these claims.
Understanding these elements and gathering the necessary evidence can be a daunting task. Therefore, it is advisable to seek the assistance of a skilled wrongful death attorney who can guide you through this complex legal process.
How Do I File Wrongful Death Claims?
A lawsuit is usually filed by a representative of the estate of the deceased victim, on behalf of survivors who had a relationship with the victim. Exactly who those survivors can be varies from state to state.
In New York State, a spouse may bring a wrongful death action on behalf of his or her deceased spouse. Parents of minors may also bring a case if one of their children is killed, and minors can collect compensation for the death of one or both of their parents.
In some states, the life partner of the deceased may bring a wrongful death claim, as can anyone who can show financial dependence on the deceased.
Damages Available in Wrongful Death Claims
Exploring the types of damages available in wrongful death claims is critical, and it typically involves assessing both economic and non-economic losses. These damages are designed to compensate the deceased’s family for the loss they have suffered and to punish the wrongdoer for their actions.
Economic damages can be calculated quite precisely as they involve tangible financial losses. These may include medical expenses incurred prior to the deceased’s death, funeral and burial costs, loss of the deceased’s expected earnings, loss of benefits such as pension plans or medical coverage, and loss of inheritance caused by an untimely death.
Non-economic damages, on the other hand, address intangible losses which are harder to quantify. These may include compensation for the pain and suffering the deceased person experienced before death, loss of love, companionship, comfort, care, assistance, protection, and affection suffered by the deceased’s family, and the mental anguish caused by the loss.
In cases where the wrongful death resulted from malicious acts, such as sex abuse, punitive damages may also be awarded. These damages are not intended to compensate the family for their loss, but to punish the abuser and deter others from committing such heinous acts. The amount of punitive damages is typically determined by the severity of the wrongdoing and the wealth of the defendant.
What Kind Of Damages Can I Get In A Wrongful Death Case?
Damages in a wrongful death claim can include:
- The deceased person’s pre-death pain and suffering – called a survival claim in a wrongful death case.
- The medical costs that the deceased victim incurred as a result of the injury prior to death
- Funeral and burial costs
- Loss of the deceased person’s expected income
- Loss of any inheritance as a result of the death
- Value of the services that the deceased would have provided
- Loss of care, guidance, and nurturing that the deceased would have provided
- Loss of love and companionship, and
- Loss of consortium.
There is more to wrongful death law and laws do vary from state to state. New York laws differ as to who may bring a wrongful death lawsuit and who may be sued. For important information about both of these questions, contact us if you believe you have a valid claim.
Statute Of Limitations For A Wrongful Death Suit In New York State
- Wrongful death claims must be filed within 2 years from the date of death under New York’s statute of limitations. This time limit applies even if the cause of death was not immediately known.
- The 2-year period begins to run from the date of death, not from the time the personal representative is appointed or the potential plaintiff discovers facts about the death.
- For a wrongful death claim involving medical malpractice, there may be an additional grace period of up to 10 months from the date of death if the plaintiff needs extra time to obtain qualified medical expert opinion before filing. This can extend the statute of limitations to up to 2 years and 10 months.
- If the defendant cannot be served within the 2-year limitations period, the plaintiff can get an additional 60 days from the expiration date to serve the defendant under New York law.
- Minor children are given an extension until 2 years after reaching the age of majority (18 in New York) to bring a wrongful death claim.
- If a wrongful death action is dismissed on technical grounds after the limitations period expires, New York law sometimes allows one additional year to refile the claim
Do You Have A Wrongful Death Claim Or Want To File A Wrongful Death Lawsuit? Contact A Lawyer Today To Get Your Case Started.
Do you believe your loved one died due to someone else’s negligence? If so, talk to an experienced wrongful death attorney.
If your loved one was killed due to someone else’s negligence and you are in need of a Wrongful Death Attorney, the Law Offices of Stuart M. Kerner, P.C., located in the Riverdale/Kingsbridge section of the Bronx, will investigate, prosecute and negotiate with the insurance company of the negligent party to settle your claim and obtain compensation for you based upon the severity of your injury and your pain and suffering. If you would like a legal opinion on the potential value of your matter or have a question about your rights, contact one of our lawyers at (718) 796-7900 or click here to schedule a FREE Consultation online so we can evaluate your wrongful death case.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can a Suit Be Filed if the Deceased Never Held a Job?
Yes, a suit can be filed irrespective of the deceased’s employment status. The claim is based on the wrongful act, neglect, or default causing the death, not the deceased’s employment history.
What Happens if the Wrongful Death Occurred in a Different State Than Where I Live?
If a wrongful death occurs in a different state than where you reside, you can still file a suit. However, the laws of the state where the incident happened will generally govern the claim proceedings.
Can I File a Wrongful Death Lawsuit if the Person Who Caused the Death Is Already Facing Criminal Charges?
Yes, even if the person responsible is facing criminal charges, you can still file a wrongful death suit. The civil proceedings for wrongful death are separate from the criminal justice process.
Who Receives the Money if a Lawsuit Is Successful?
In the event of a successful wrongful death claim, the decedent’s estate or surviving family members, such as a spouse, children, or parents, typically receive the awarded compensation, depending on state laws and circumstances.
How Does Mental and Emotional Suffering Factor Into a Case?
Mental and emotional suffering, referred to as “pain and suffering”, often factors into a wrongful death claim. It’s typically quantified monetarily based on severity, and awarded to surviving family members for their loss.